Sir Angus Farquharson of Finzean, former Lord Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire and pioneer in sustainable rural community development, has died aged 82.
Born Angus Roderick Durie Miller in Haydon Bridge, Northumberland, in 1935, he spent most of his early years in Aberdeen and Laurencekirk and attended Aberdeen Grammar School, of which he had happy memories, Lathallan School, Drumtochty Castle and then Glenalmond College, where he formed many lasting friendships and an attachment, which led to his later becoming a founding Fellow of the college.
In his final days of school, he encouraged an exuberant First XV to hand launch a glider with him as pilot. Having momentarily reached a height never previously exceeded, he crashed and broke his back, thus foregoing both an air cadet scholarship to Australia and New Zealand and National Service.
He went up to Cambridge University in 1953, where he read archaeology and anthropology. In 1961, he married Alison Mary Farquharson and agreed to assume her surname, in recognition of the Farquharson association to the Barony of Finzean.
The Farquharson Clan became very important to him and he wore the tartan with great pride. He retrained in estate management and later became a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors in 1985.
Settling in Finzean in 1969, he began a long period of public service, which was to last until 2013, the year he suffered a severe stroke. He became a church elder in 1969 and was on the Board of General Trustees between 1995 and 2006.
He served on the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland for nine years, one of them as chairman, the regional advisory committee of the Forestry Commission for 14 years, the Red Deer Commission, Scottish National Heritage North East Committee, was president of Kincardine & Deeside Scouts and was a director of the Scottish Traditional Skills Training Centre. He became an officer of the Order of St John in 2002 and was made a Commander of the Order in 2009. In 1995, he was awarded an OBE for services to forestry and the community – it was the latter bit of which he was especially proud.
The greatest honour bestowed on him was through the Lieutenancy of Aberdeenshire. He became a Deputy Lieutenant in 1984, Vice Lord Lieutenant in 1987 and ultimately Lord Lieutenant from 1998 until 2010. He was made for the role, but often struggled with his uniform: on the first occasion to take a salute, he noticed too late that he’d put his spurs on the wrong way round.
He had the perfect balance between protocol and unassuming grace and instinctively understood the words of his favourite poem, If: “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue, Or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch…” In 2010, he was made Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order by the Queen at Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh.
Many remember him for an unassuming manner and warm welcome to the community. His oft-repeated mantra was that “we are all Jock Tamson’s bairns”, here to help each other, and he lived and breathed this each day.
He understood that a thriving community required amenities and possibilities for the young, so helped nurture the community bodies, school, church and local shop.
He donated land for the first sheltered housing scheme in the north-east of Scotland and made available low-cost sites for young families with ties to the area. He was instrumental in the creation of Birse Community Trust, an innovative local charity initially created to preserve the historic water mills, which today manages woodland and buildings for the community.
He was passionate about local history and wrote Finzean: The Fair Place an account of the Farquharsons’ 400-year association to the area. He loved his garden and would disappear there for hours to clear his mind and cut the grass. Current and future generations will enjoy his artistic eye and love of azaleas, acers and neatly lined lawns.
He also supported many local charities, including Dumfries and Galloway Action, supporting families in Bosnia by driving relief trucks from Scotland. On one trip and ignoring instructions, he reversed his 7-tonne truck into the local police commissioner’s Mercedes as they made careful negotiation for entry to Bosnia. It took 250 Deutschmarks and a bottle of whisky to restore a smile to the commissioner’s face and be allowed passage.
He was dedicated to his family and, though the last four and a half years of his life restricted his ability to enjoy the progress of his eight grandchildren, he never lost interest. His beloved wife, Alison, who had provided constant care, died suddenly in 2016. He bore this loss and his disability with great dignity and never complained. Indeed, some of the last words he spoke were that he had been most fortunate in life.
He is survived by his children, Jean Haslam and Donald and Andrew Farquharson, all of whom reside in Finzean.